What if you could make one tiny, simple change to the way you draw that could increase your accuracy, without you really having to work at it?
Sounds too good to be true, right?
Well, I think I have one for you. The only catch is that it will take time to see the results.
Why does drawing accuracy matter?
Accuracy is a core skill, one of the foundations of drawing well. If you can’t draw accurately, you’ll struggle to draw anything well at all.
Obviously there’s much more to drawing than simply drawing what you see as exactly as you can. But as my friend Dorian says, if you struggle with accuracy, everything in drawing becomes that much harder, takes that much longer.
How to develop drawing accuracy – the slow way
If you want to develop your drawing accuracy fast, then the best approach is to practise it exclusively for a while. Do nothing but accuracy training, and do it regularly. Spend two hours a day copying Bargue drawings, and push yourself to achieve absolute accuracy. You will improve, and quickly. Dorian’s drawing accuracy guide would be a great place to start.
But there’s more than one way to develop a skill. And if you’re not in any particular rush, I’ve got something deceptively simple for you.
I call it:
Guess, then measure
Because that’s what it is. Let me explain.
When you boil it down, the most basic, core skill of accuracy is judging relationships: The distance between two points.
Recent research into brain science, specifically brain plasticity, has borne out what we’ve always known all along, if we’re honest with ourselves. The most efficient way to develop a skill is to practice it over and over and over again.
How to do it
Often, when we’re drawing and we want to find, say, the distance between a life model’s head and their feet, between two elements of a still life, or between one tree and another, we’ll measure it.
And that’s fine. But it won’t develop your core accuracy skill much, your ability to correctly judge the distance between two points.
So what should you do instead?
Estimate the distance, and make a mark.
Simple, right? But that’s just the first part.
There’s one more very important part of practice that makes it much more effective. It puts your practice on steroids: Feedback.
Feedback allows you to make adjustments to your method, based on the results you get. Practice without feedback is like chucking a basketball without bothering to see if it goes through the hoop.
You won’t make so much progress if you practice without checking your results.
The feedback loop
The way we build feedback into this simple method is to measure the distance after we’ve guessed at it, to check it against our guess.
I know, it seems too simple. But if you break it down, here’s what’s happening:
When you guess, you’re requiring your brain to estimate a distance between two points. Every time you do that, you develop your skill at estimating distances a little more. A tiny bit. Over time, that tiny bit becomes much bigger, it becomes a development in your skill level that you can see.
So far so good. Here’s how you get feedback:
Now you measure the distance to check it. This is your feedback mechanism. Over time, you’ll see whether you tend to guess distances smaller or larger. You’ll be able to compensate for any habitual errors you make. And you’ll see yourself getting better, as your margin of error decreases.
This feedback is the part that makes this little change really effective.
Guess, then measure
Be prepared for your guesses to be wildly out at first. Gradually, they’ll improve. As long as you constantly give yourself feedback by checking your guess against a measurement.
It’s such a small change to the way you draw. Nothing really, you won’t feel it at all.
But if you manage to make it a habit, over time the repetition will really mount up. I think you’ll be surprised what a difference it makes to your drawing accuracy. Astonished, in fact.
Small things really can make a big difference.
Thanks for reading,
The idea of developing skills through repeating small actions many times isn’t new. Neither is the idea of feedback making for more effective practice. But both really work.
The drawing exercises that form the core of Creative Triggers, my drawing practice community, are built entirely around this idea. They’re simple, deceptively so.
But when combined with a drawing practice habit (and some time, of course) they effectively build your fundamental drawing skills more than all the art books lining your book shelves (and mine).
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